Massive sulphides in ophiolites

Chalcopyrite and pyrite. Lasail, Oman

Click hereChalcopyrite (yellow, right) surrounds poorly crystalline, fine-grained pyrite (brown, bottom centre) which has well crystalline margins (pale yellow-white, centre). The fine-grained nature of pyrite lowers its reflectance and gives a characteristic brown surface colour. The fine pyrite could be primary or altered pyrrhotite, but here it is probably primary. The gangue phases (dark grey) are silicates.

Polished block, plane polarized light, x80, air

Pyrite, chalcopyrite and sphalerite. Bayda, Oman

Click hereEuhedral pyrite (light yellow-white) crystals are extensively replaced by chalcopyrite (yellow) along the (100) cleavage directions of pyrite. Although pyrite is fractured, much of the chalcopyrite is replacing, rather than cementing, pyrite. Sphalerite (light grey, bottom centre) overgrows pyrite as small subhedral crystals (right centre) and is inclusion-free. Quartz is the main gangue phase (dark grey, top centre).

Polished block, plane polarized light, x 80, air

Pyrite, magnetite, chalcopyrite and pyrrhotite. Lasail, Oman

Click hereCoarse pyrite crystals (light yellow-white, right) enclose pyrrhotite (brown, centre right), chalcopyrite (yellow, centre top) and cubes of magnetite (grey, centre right). Euhedral to subhedral magnetite (grey-brown, centre) and chalcopyrite (centre left) are intergrown with pyrite. Black areas are quartz and polishing pits.

Polished thin section, plane polarized light, x 160 oil

Sphalerite, pyrite and chalcopyrite. Bayda, Oman

Click hereEuhedral to poorly crystalline pyrite (light yellow-white, left) surrounds sphalerite (centre) which has suffered extensive replacement by chalcopyrite; this is an extreme example of chalcopyrite disease. The replacement of sphalerite by very fine-grained chalcopyrite is crystallographically controlled, following growth zones and poorly defined twinning. The differences in surface colour (orange to purple) are due to orientation effects of the fine chalcopyrite inclusions. Under crossed polars the anisotropy effects are enormous. The outer margin of the sphalerite (grey, top left) is chalcopyrite-free and belongs to a later generation of sphalerite. Quartz (dark grey with internal reflections) is the gangue.

Polished block, plane polarized light, x 160, oil

Sphalerite, pyrite and chalcopyrite. Bayda, Oman

Click herePyrite (light yellow-white) forms euhedral crystals (top centre) or poorly polished spongy aggregates (right centre). Sphalerite (left, centre) has suffered extensive chalcopyrite disease along twin planes. The variation in surface colour of the diseased sphalerite (yellow-brown to purple-brown) is controlled by the density and crystallographic orientation of the fine chalcopyrite inclusions. Other areas of the sphalerite are inclusion-free and show characteristic grey surface colours and low reflectance (left). The crystal on the right, which appears to be chalcopyrite, enclosing a low-reflectance phase; is an example of extreme chalcopyrite disease with little relict sphalerite. The degree of chalcopyrite replacement is clearly related to crystallographic domains in the original sphalerite.

Polished thin section, plane polarized light. x 160 oil

Pyrite and haematite. Lasail, Oman

Click hereEuhedral pyrite (light yellow, centre) is fractured and surrounded by aggregates of fine-grained, often botryoidal, haematite (light green-grey, centre left). The differences in reflectance and surface colour (bottom centre) between the core and margin of the haematite aggregates are due to variations in grain size of individual haematite crystals. The coarser crystals on the margin have a slightly higher reflectance. Quartz (dark grey) is the gangue.

Polished block, plane polarized light. x 160, air